For the first time in the history of U.S. Virgin Islands’ yachting, two sailors achieved a podium finish at the 41st Annual ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Youth World Sailing Championships, held in Zadar, Croatia, July 7th – 16th.
Nikki Barnes, age 17 of St. Thomas, and Agustina Barbuto, age 15 of St. John, won bronze medals in the Girls 420 event, defeating teams from 28 nations and bowing out only to the winning team from Austria and second place team from the USA.
Light winds proved challenging during the five-day, 10-race regatta. A protest by the Italian team on the second to last day and the USVI’s team disqualification in one race upped the tension going into the final day. Yet, Barnes skippering and Barbuto crewing aboard the two-person, spinnaker-flying dinghy came back with focus and determination to soundly earn their bronze medals with a 16 point lead over the fourth place finishers from Australia.
“We knew we wouldn’t be able to move up to second with only one race left because of the point spread,” says Barnes, about her outlook going into the final day. “So, we went out to have fun, to enjoy it and to go fast rather than to worry about the outcome.”
“A key to the team’s success from a crew standpoint,” says Barbuto, “was that I always was looking out of the boat, keeping an eye on the competition which was pretty intense.”
Heidi Coyle and Alex Coyle, both of St. John, served as Team Leader and Coach, respectively, providing much needed support to the girls in such an elite level sailing competition
Barnes, Barbuto and the Coyles are all members of St. Thomas Yacht Club.
A total of 358 sailors from 59 nations competed in the regatta. In addition to both Girls and Boys divisions in the 420, other classes included Laser Radials, SL 16s, 29ers, and RSX.
Many former ISAF Youth Worlds medallists have moved on to achieve greatness in the Olympic Games, America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, and the two USVI girl sailors look to follow in their footsteps.
Report submitted by Carol M. Bareuther.